Hey Friends. The Qwillery (an awesome blog page and all round amazing website) just published an interview we did with them about the release of The Darkest Lord. Take a look and leave some feedback if you have a chance.


Dear Sir or Madam,

Will you read our book. It took us months to write, will you take a look. It’s based on sci-fi and fantasy novels we’ve read over the years, and we love being paperback writers.

With apologies to the Fab Four, the big news today is that The Darkest Lord is officially out as a paperback! Yea! If you haven’t had a chance or have been waiting for a more tangible form of media before getting a copy, now is the time to check it out! You can purchase copies at any of your finest purveyors of the written word.

To give you a little taste, here is a little bit of the book about the books.

I am not sure what I was expecting. Part of me still had not gotten over the whole Order of Execution and was half braced for some further dreadful revelation. I can tell you that the last thing on my mind was my novel, but there it was in his hand. A copy of The Dark Lord by Jack Heckel. He held a quill in his other hand.

“Could I get you, all of you, to sign my copy of The Dark Lord?”

Ariella hid her face in her hands while the rest of us exchanged puzzled looks. At last, Valdara answered, a bit uncertainly. “Of course, High Archon, it would be our . . . honor?”

A wide smile stretched across his face, and he rubbed his hands together with unelven glee. “Excellent! I am trying to get autographs from the entire Company of the Fellowship. Can you imagine how jealous the dwarf lords will be? To say nothing of any mortal men I might come across.”

While the others lined up to put their signatures in the book, Allaria, who I must mention has a voice that sounds as if it comes from Seventh Heaven (a delightful subworld, for the record), leaned over to me and whispered, “I do apologize. He can be quite obsessive with his collecting. He has kept the shattered pieces of your old staff for years, because he claims they are bound to be valuable one day.”

“It’s true,” said Solon, who was suddenly standing next to me with the book. “One day I will reforge your staff. It will be a collector’s item. This I swear.” He put the quill in my hands. “By the way, why write the book under a nom de plume?”

“A what kind of plum?” asked Sam quizzically.

“It just means that it was written under a different name, even though it’s my story,” I said as I signed. “Although technically it isn’t a nom de plume because I didn’t write either of the books.”

“Books?” said Solon, perking up his pointed ears.

“The Dark Lord and The Darker Lord.” I handed him the book and quill back. “A sequel recently came out.”

“There’s a sequel? I must have it!” he exclaimed.

“It isn’t available just yet. In Trelari, I mean,” I said, trying to figure out how to explain an e-reader to an elven lord.

“Wait,” said Drake, “does that mean we are in the third book at this very moment?”

I shrugged and sighed. “I don’t know what it means. In my world, most series are trilogies. After the third book, everything is over. If that holds for us, this should be the end. Eldrin is convinced it is.”

Sam swallowed. “So, are we all going to die?”

“No,” said Ariella, who seemed to have perked up now that the book signing was over. “I researched Mysterium literature a great deal in preparation for school. It just means that this arc will come to a conclusion. We might all live. One of us might even get a spin-off series.”

We just posted a new blog entry about “the trials of trilogies” on the Qwillery blog. If you get a chance wander over a take a look.

A blog about books and other things speculative

Hey All!

First, I would like to thank everyone that sent back photos wearing our gear. Very cool! It really makes our day here in the Wonderful World of Jack to see all the Avery fans out there.

Second, and of particular note, this last week, on the 26th, The Darkest Lord became available in many and varied eBook formats. If you are interested in picking up a virtual copy of the final chapter in the Mysterium Chronicles follow the link to one of the many fine vendors and grab a copy. Alternatively, you can always go to one of those selfsame vendors directly to obtain a copy. If you do, please consider giving us a review once you’ve had a chance to read it. Remember, everyone posting a review of one of our books (and telling us about it) is eligible for fabulous prizes!

Third, March 2nd is an important date because it marks exactly one month to the release of the paperback version of The Darkest Lord. We in the world of Jack have a particular fondness for the idea of having all three books on our shelf. There is something about the symmetry of a trilogy that appeals to the Tolkien fanatics in us. There will be more on this subject as the date draws closer.

Finally, we have been getting requests for information on how to order Avery t-shirts and Mysterium University sweaters. The answer for now is to send us an email and we will send you all the details. Moving forward we will be trying to put an order page together. You can count on an announcement when that happens.

Again, thanks to everyone for reading and supporting us.

All The Best,


Aha! So, you have been diligently logging in to follow Jack’s recent flurry of blog posts and you are beginning to ask, “What exactly is he up to?” The answer of course is celebrating the e-book release of Jack’s latest novel: The Darkest Lord. (Note, yesterday we pushed The Darkest Lord from the “What Will Be” into the “What Is” category. This is a sure sign that we at least believe it is close to being a “What Is” even if it hasn’t quite arrived yet.)

All joking aside, The Darkest Lord arrives on sale (again in e-book form only) on 2/26. (Wow! That’s only 3 days away!) It will be available in paperback form in early April. (April 2nd to be exact.) We are very excited, and a little sad, because as writers it marks the end of Avery’s trilogy. And, what a ride it has been.

We actually began writing The Dark Lord before we had finished the second Charming  Tales novel, Pitchfork of Destiny. At that time it was just a little snippet (basically what became the prologue of The Dark Lord). Over the next couple of months it expanded, through sheer exuberance, into the first four or five chapters of the novel. The incomplete story then sat on a shelf for about a year while we finished Pitchfork. It was a book we hoped to have a chance to write, but had no idea when we would have the time to get to it. Then Harper stepped in and asked us to write not one or two books about Avery Stewart, but three… in a row… like right now!

Since the first of the Mysterium Chronicles published in 2016 we have been living in Avery’s world as authors almost non-stop. I have to say, he is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever written. And, now that we are so close to putting out the last word (at least for now) on his world, we thought it might be fun to summarize Avery’s evolution by giving you three quotes (one from each novel) from the man himself.


With that warningout of the way, and without further ado, here is Avery Stewart on Avery Stewart:

“Hello, my name is Avery Stewart and I am the Dark Lord.

If you have ever read any other accounts of dark lords or, gods forbid, been under the thumb of one yourself, your first thought should be, “What is a guy named Avery doing being a dark lord?””

The Dark Lord


“My name is Avery, and I am not the Dark Lord.

At least, that is what I muttered to myself as I stared at my reflection in the coffee shop window.”

The Darker Lord

“My name is Avery, and I wish I weren’t the Dark Lord.

It was a fervent wish. One that I repeated daily, but with no effect, because I was the Dark Lord, and the fact that I was—alongside a number of other regrettable life choices—probably explains why I was lying in a coffin listening to a voice, dry as death, calmly reciting my latest crimes against the multiverse.”

The Darkest Lord

Thanks Avery.

We hope these snippets whetted your appetite for more. We also hope you enjoy this latest chapter in Avery’s saga.

All the Best,


We are now 5 days to the launch of the final chapter of the Avery Stewart trilogy, and I want to turn your attention to one of my favorite parts of writing the Mysterium books: the references. If you have had a chance to read any of the Mysterium Chronicles then you know that scattered throughout are references to books or games or movies that have made up our life’s education in the sci-fi, fantasy, wargaming, and roleplaying universe. Some are obvious, like the Dimensional Macrocosm Guide or DMG that Eldrin was constantly referencing in The Dark Lord. As Avery explains in Chapter 6:

A DMG is a manual of sorts (in official parlance a detailed log of experimental requirements, parameters and procedures) that has to be written by every Mysterium researcher that wants to conduct an experiment on a subworld. In theory, nearly any question about the world (its people, geography, religion, climate, etc.) can be found in the researcher’s DMG. However, the comprehensive nature of the document means that its utility is almost entirely dependent on how well it is organized (how thoughtful the table of contents is and how thorough the index). I wrote those key portions of my DMG in a mad rush about twenty-four hours before I was due to start my experiment, a fact Eldrin was keenly aware of.

This of course is a reference to one of my favorite gaming books of all time: the original 1st Edition DMG for DnD.

The 1st Edition DMG was a bizarre book with an awesome cover. (I mean look at that crazy muscled demon with the lightning coming off of its body.) The reason I loved this book is that it really did have everything. Tables for treasures. Tables for clothes. Tables for monsters. Tables for weather. Tables for animals. Even tables (and I am not making this up) for random harlots. What is more, these tables really were scattered about without reason or logic. As a kid growing up it was the ultimate Easter egg hunt, only where you might find something to inflict on your players. Like pgs 13 and 14 that had tables for, among other things, chances for parasitic infestation. (What only a +1% chance for parasitic infection after being exposed to raw sewage? Come on!)

Inserting these little tidbits into the Mysterium Chronicles was not only a great way to take a walk along memory lane, but also to learn new things. Like in Chapter 21 of The Dark Lord where we had to figure out the geometric names of all the DnD dice: pentagonal trapezohedra, tetrakis hecaderon, deltoidal icositetrahedron! Or in Chapter 10 of The Darker Lord where, in researching different names for types of books, I discovered that the term “libram” was coined by some fantasy or roleplaying author because it sounded cool.

Still my favorite references are those that trigger some memory. Trevor and Tanner in The Darker Lord (Chapter 14) discussing their KHAAAAAN! theory. Or the many books Avery and crew raced through in their mad flight from Moregoth later in that same book. In each case the hardship was not in coming up with lists and lists and lists of possible references, but in deciding which ones to cut. In the end, we tended to err on the side of nostalgia.

In fact, one criticism we’ve received about the Mysterium Chronicles is that our references tend to the “golden age” of sci-fi and fantasy and omit more recent creations. It’s a fair point. We like to bring up the Kirk-era Star Trek more than the Pine-era. (Although as you know from The Darker Lord, Dawn does enjoy the “cute Spock” quite a bit.) Likewise, our literary references tend toward Tolkien and Zelazny, Donaldson and Moorcock rather than Rothfuss or Martin. Some of that is us showing our age, but some is a sense that references work best when a novel or a movie has had time to settle into the collective consciousness of readers and viewers. While I know what to say about Harry Potter or Rand al’Thor, I’m not sure what will become of Kvothe or who will even be alive at the end of the next Song of Fire and Ice novel (presuming Martin ever chooses to grace us with another one). And so, in The Darkest Lord, when Eldrin waxes poetic about the 1979 war game The Campaign for North Africa, know that it comes from a place of love for the absurd in all of us that keeps the memories of these old, and sometimes bizarre, creations alive.

[Now that you’ve read about a couple of our favorite references, why not tell us about yours. Or, tell us about what references you hope will be coming in The Darkest Lord. All submissions give you a chance to win amazing prizes from Jack. You may even win an “Avery Lives” t-shirt, which is of course another reference.]

This blog entry is entitled “Life, The Universe and Everything” because sometimes it seems as though all three of those conspire against our better intentions. Take this blog. Our intention was to count down the days to the release of The Darkest Lord (as a reminder that is 2/26 for the ebook) with a blog entry every day. We made it 3 days before life, the universe and everything interceded. On the whole that isn’t a bad stretch, but hardly what we had hoped. So, today we will make it up by putting three blog entries in one to cover days 4 to 6.

Let me start with…


On Day 3 we blogged about writing as a team, and I urge you to read that entry as it is quite good. One of the questions we most often get about writing as a team is how we come up with our ideas. There seems to be a belief for many that coming up with good story ideas is a challenge. In fact, that is the easiest part. There are a dozen story ideas we want to publish as Jack (check in on our Future Stories page as we will be putting more and more content there as we move past the publication of The Darkest Lord), and each of Jack’s parts have another dozen that don’t really fit Jack’s style that we would like to do on our own.

Ideas we have, but time we don’t. That is probably the biggest challenge we face in coming up with new content. Time. I know this will come as a surprise to many, but Jack’s scribblings do not, in and of themselves, keep the lights on. This means that both of Jack’s halves must, for now, keep their day jobs. In turn this means that Jack is primarily a  night and weekends creation. I know this is not a situation unique to Jack, and to some extent Jack has a secret power, namely that he has two heads and pairs of hands to write with, still it does mean that life can and does intervene now and then. And so, if at times we go silent and the site grows dusty know that life has happened once again. What a blessing.

Oh, and if you really want to goose us into putting something up try emailing us. I swear it works every time.

Which naturally leads me to…

The Universe

One thing that does not work every time is the website itself. You all may have noticed that there was a bit of a muddle with the links to the Day 3 blog post when they were propagated through Jack’s extensive media empire. It turns out that one half of Jack (the West coast half) is a bit of a dunce when it comes to computer technology. While one might find this fact odd as he once custom built his own computers while in graduate school,  it is a fact. Let us, perhaps over generously, put it down to the age old premise of “use it or lose it”. This is all in way of preamble to say that the website (which he had a hand in creating) may have a few bugs in it that we need to work out. Know that we are working on those issues, and as they say at the airport “If you see something say something.” Criticism, constructive or otherwise, is always welcome. And often results in gifts.

Which inevitably segues into…


As you know, in the VERY FIRST POST of the countdown we offered gifts galore! Well, those gifts are now moving over land and over sea to our first recipients. (You know who you are, or should as we have exchanged emails by now.) If you had fallen into a pit of despair over having missed out on your chance to collect some free stuff from old Jack all we can say is never fear! Continue to engage with the site or our other social media accounts by commenting, sending us emails, reviewing our books (and telling us about it), or signing up for our newsletter. We promise your engagement means EVERYTHING to us!

All Our Best,


Hey All, this is Harry, Jack’s East Coast arm here to celebrate Day 3 of the Countdown to The Darkest Lord (e-book publication date 2/26.) One of the questions that I’m asked at conventions and book signings is how John Peck and I manage to write as Jack Heckel. This often comes with a rapid fire group of follow up questions. Do we get into fights? Does one of us write some parts and forbid the other from touching them? How do we divide the percentage of writing to make it fair? And of course, which one of us *REALLY* writes the books? (more…)

Hey All, this is John, Jack’s West Coast arm here to celebrate Day 2 of the Countdown to The Darkest Lord (e-book publication date 2/26) with a little recap of where we are and how we got here. By this I don’t mean that I will be spoiling The Darkest Lord, instead what I’d like to do today is discuss the Mysterium Chronicles more broadly. What is the Mysterium? How did Avery get there? Why is the tuition so bloody high?

The first question on my list is the one I most often get when describing Avery’s story. What exactly is a “Mysterium”? As Avery acknowledges early in The Dark Lord, that is actually a pretty complicated question.

“The truth is you would  either have have to be a scholar of obscure magical history or an etherspace physicist  to even attempt an answer.”

-Avery Stewart

Of course, in typical Avery fashion, he then goes on to describe with great confidence that Mysterium is the center point (or reality) in a great wheel of realities. In this framework the closer you are to the center (Mysterium) the more real you are and the farther you get from the center the less real you become.  Some of you who are avid readers of the fantasy genre will recognize echoes of Zelazny’s Amber (and its shadows) in this multi-world construction of Avery’s reality. The comparison is a fair one up to a point, or would be had we stopped with The Dark Lord.

But, we didn’t.

If the Dark Lord revolves around Avery (quite content as one of the chosen Masters of the Multiverse) trying to save his thesis, a motivation we can all empathize with even if you never had to write a dissertation, The Darker Lord exposes Avery (and by extension you) to the consequences of what reality would look like if there really was a hierarchical center to reality. (Just imagine what it would be like if the Andromeda Galaxy got to set the universe’s spring fashion trends just because it sat closer to the center of the universe.)*  On a side note, The Darker Lord also reveals what a mystical truancy officer would look like: basically a cross between Voldemort and the Terminator, if both liked to listen to Joy Division or Bauhaus.

In The Darker Lord, Avery is driven from the places he knows and loves (Mysterium, Earth and Trelari) and cast adrift in the wider multiverse. The truths he finds there (truths about himself, the Mysterium, and his friends) and his need to right the wrongs and honor the rights really drives the action in The Darkest Lord. What is the  ultimate evil in the universe? Is it Avery himself? Vivian? The jerks who torched Avery’s favorite t-shirt in The Dark Lord?  The Darkest Lord answers all these questions and more.

More you ask?


In addition to revealing all the burning questions you have about the nature of Mysterium, The Darkest Lord also answers some additional questions that likely didn’t occur to you, including:

  • Why is Mysterium the center of the multiverse?
  • Who is The Provost?
  • In a one-on-one contest of wits and magic between Vivian and Avery who wins?
  • What is Eldrin’s favorite wargame?
  • Is Moregoth a true goth or just some poseur wannabe?
  • Do semiliches make good babysitters?
  • If Ariella had to chose just one major, what would it be? How many decades would it take her to declare?
  • Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?**
  • Does Avery live?

We hope you join us on this last leg of Avery’s journey to discover who he is, why he’s here, and whether he truly is the Dark Lord.

[* Please, no nasty letters. The author fully understands that there is no center to the universe and is well aware of the balloon analogy of the Big Bang.]

[** This question is not answered in any shape way or form by any of the Mysterium Chronicles. Jack, for his part, believes the riddles of the bomp and the ram are two of the truly unanswerable questions of life.]

Jack said let their be many prizes handed out. I want to thank all those that left comments on our website. I also want to thank everyone that engaged with us on Facebook or shared our post with others. All of you are eligible for swag!

For those of you who signed up for our news letter, old Jack will be sending you a personal email to see what size shirt you wear and where you want him to send it! For those of you that used Facebook expect a message from a Jack with the same request.

For those of you that haven’t engaged with us, let this be a reminder that Jack believes in the power of free stuff! And, that it isn’t too late to get in on the action. There are still 11 more days to count down to the Darkest Lord.

Tomorrow, join us as Jack’s West Coast arm discusses the state of Avery as we enter his final chapter. It’s a bit of a recap with perhaps a few hints as to what might be coming up as Avery comes face to face with The Darkest Lord.

All the Best,


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